Anna karenina, p.152
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       Anna Karenina, p.152

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 28

  On arriving in Petersburg, Vronsky and Anna stayed at one of the besthotels; Vronsky apart in a lower story, Anna above with her child, itsnurse, and her maid, in a large suite of four rooms.

  On the day of his arrival Vronsky went to his brother's. There he foundhis mother, who had come from Moscow on business. His mother andsister-in-law greeted him as usual: they asked him about his stayabroad, and talked of their common acquaintances, but did not let drop asingle word in allusion to his connection with Anna. His brother camethe next morning to see Vronsky, and of his own accord asked him abouther, and Alexey Vronsky told him directly that he looked upon hisconnection with Madame Karenina as marriage; that he hoped to arrange adivorce, and then to marry her, and until then he considered her as mucha wife as any other wife, and he begged him to tell their mother and hiswife so.

  "If the world disapproves, I don't care," said Vronsky; "but if myrelations want to be on terms of relationship with me, they will have tobe on the same terms with my wife."

  The elder brother, who had always a respect for his younger brother'sjudgment, could not well tell whether he was right or not till the worldhad decided the question; for his part he had nothing against it, andwith Alexey he went up to see Anna.

  Before his brother, as before everyone, Vronsky addressed Anna with acertain formality, treating her as he might a very intimate friend, butit was understood that his brother knew their real relations, and theytalked about Anna's going to Vronsky's estate.

  In spite of all his social experience Vronsky was, in consequence of thenew position in which he was placed, laboring under a strangemisapprehension. One would have thought he must have understood thatsociety was closed for him and Anna; but now some vague ideas had sprungup in his brain that this was only the case in old-fashioned days, andthat now with the rapidity of modern progress (he had unconsciouslybecome by now a partisan of every sort of progress) the views of societyhad changed, and that the question whether they would be received insociety was not a foregone conclusion. "Of course," he thought, "shewould not be received at court, but intimate friends can and must lookat it in the proper light." One may sit for several hours at a stretchwith one's legs crossed in the same position, if one knows that there'snothing to prevent one's changing one's position; but if a man knowsthat he must remain sitting so with crossed legs, then cramps come on,the legs begin to twitch and to strain towards the spot to which onewould like to draw them. This was what Vronsky was experiencing inregard to the world. Though at the bottom of his heart he knew that theworld was shut on them, he put it to the test whether the world had notchanged by now and would not receive them. But he very quickly perceivedthat though the world was open for him personally, it was closed forAnna. Just as in the game of cat and mouse, the hands raised for himwere dropped to bar the way for Anna.

  One of the first ladies of Petersburg society whom Vronsky saw was hiscousin Betsy.

  "At last!" she greeted him joyfully. "And Anna? How glad I am! Where areyou stopping? I can fancy after your delightful travels you must findour poor Petersburg horrid. I can fancy your honeymoon in Rome. Howabout the divorce? Is that all over?"

  Vronsky noticed that Betsy's enthusiasm waned when she learned that nodivorce had as yet taken place.

  "People will throw stones at me, I know," she said, "but I shall comeand see Anna; yes, I shall certainly come. You won't be here long, Isuppose?"

  And she did certainly come to see Anna the same day, but her tone wasnot at all the same as in former days. She unmistakably prided herselfon her courage, and wished Anna to appreciate the fidelity of herfriendship. She only stayed ten minutes, talking of society gossip, andon leaving she said:

  "You've never told me when the divorce is to be? Supposing I'm ready tofling my cap over the mill, other starchy people will give you the coldshoulder until you're married. And that's so simple nowadays. _Ca sefait_. So you're going on Friday? Sorry we shan't see each other again."

  From Betsy's tone Vronsky might have grasped what he had to expect fromthe world; but he made another effort in his own family. His mother hedid not reckon upon. He knew that his mother, who had been soenthusiastic over Anna at their first acquaintance, would have no mercyon her now for having ruined her son's career. But he had more hope ofVarya, his brother's wife. He fancied she would not throw stones, andwould go simply and directly to see Anna, and would receive her in herown house.

  The day after his arrival Vronsky went to her, and finding her alone,expressed his wishes directly.

  "You know, Alexey," she said after hearing him, "how fond I am of you,and how ready I am to do anything for you; but I have not spoken,because I knew I could be of no use to you and to Anna Arkadyevna," shesaid, articulating the name "Anna Arkadyevna" with particular care."Don't suppose, please, that I judge her. Never; perhaps in her place Ishould have done the same. I don't and can't enter into that," she said,glancing timidly at his gloomy face. "But one must call things by theirnames. You want me to go and see her, to ask her here, and torehabilitate her in society; but do understand that I _cannot_ do so. Ihave daughters growing up, and I must live in the world for my husband'ssake. Well, I'm ready to come and see Anna Arkadyevna: she willunderstand that I can't ask her here, or I should have to do so in sucha way that she would not meet people who look at things differently;that would offend her. I can't raise her..."

  "Oh, I don't regard her as fallen more than hundreds of women you doreceive!" Vronsky interrupted her still more gloomily, and he got up insilence, understanding that his sister-in-law's decision was not to beshaken.

  "Alexey! don't be angry with me. Please understand that I'm not toblame," began Varya, looking at him with a timid smile.

  "I'm not angry with you," he said still as gloomily; "but I'm sorry intwo ways. I'm sorry, too, that this means breaking up our friendship--ifnot breaking up, at least weakening it. You will understand that for me,too, it cannot be otherwise."

  And with that he left her.

  Vronsky knew that further efforts were useless, and that he had to spendthese few days in Petersburg as though in a strange town, avoiding everysort of relation with his own old circle in order not to be exposed tothe annoyances and humiliations which were so intolerable to him. One ofthe most unpleasant features of his position in Petersburg was thatAlexey Alexandrovitch and his name seemed to meet him everywhere. Hecould not begin to talk of anything without the conversation turning onAlexey Alexandrovitch; he could not go anywhere without risk of meetinghim. So at least it seemed to Vronsky, just as it seems to a man with asore finger that he is continually, as though on purpose, grazing hissore finger on everything.

  Their stay in Petersburg was the more painful to Vronsky that heperceived all the time a sort of new mood that he could not understandin Anna. At one time she would seem in love with him, and then she wouldbecome cold, irritable, and impenetrable. She was worrying oversomething, and keeping something back from him, and did not seem tonotice the humiliations which poisoned his existence, and for her, withher delicate intuition, must have been still more unbearable.

 
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